O'Malley ready to debate Ehrlich -- now (UPDATED)
The day before Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. formally announces he wants his old job back, Gov. Martin O'Malley has challenged him to a debate.
The Republican former governor has accepted -- with conditions. He wants to continue in his role of host and not have any moderators. This is something the O'Malley camp won't accept, though their offer of a "true debate" stands. (More below.)
Ehrlich lost to O'Malley, a Democrat, by 6.5 percentage points in 2006 and confirmed last week that he is running for governor this November.
Here's how the debate debate unfolded today:
This afternoon, O'Malley released word through his campaign's e-mail and Facebook page that he wanted to debate Ehrlich this Saturday, on the former governor's own turf .
"I welcome Mr. Ehrlich back into the race for Governor. The 2006 race was hard fought, and I enjoyed it. I look forward to an issue-based discussion about ideas and issues that can keep our state moving forward. If Ehrlich accepts our challenge we are looking forward to an hour-long Saturday morning debate on Maryland's future on WBAL radio." (via O'Malley's Facebook page)
A release from the O'Malley campaign added that the governor wants to debate now because "there are so many important issues facing our state ... I think the Maryland public deserves to hear about our plans and ideas as soon as possible."
His campaign proposed using a WBAL news employee and a television partner as moderators.
It's a convenient venue. Ehrlich and his wife, Kendel Ehrlich, host a two-hour radio show Saturday mornings on WBAL.
Ehrlich's new spokesman, Andy Barth, learned of the offer moments after O'Malley made it.
This evening, Ehrlich posted an item on his campaign web page, titled, "Bob Ehrlich welcomes Governor O'Malley to the Bob and Kendel Show."
“We welcome Governor O’Malley to the Kendel and Bob Show this Saturday on WBAL Radio 1090 AM in Baltimore. I look forward to playing host this Saturday as I have every Saturday for the past few years. Rather than bringing in a moderator to fill air time, I will personally host Governor O’Malley for a one-on-one conversation about the record tax increases, jobs losses, and budget deficits that have hurt Maryland families and small businesses in recent years.”
Ehrlich's modifications were swiftly rejected by the governor. O'Malley campaign manager Tom Russell said in an e-mailed statement:
"We proposed a very simple and standard debate at a time we knew would work for Mr. Ehrlich. We regret that he did not take our offer in the spirit it was intended. Our offer stands to have a true debate this weekend at a time that is convenient for Mr. Ehrlich if he is at all interested. I think we’ve reached the point where Mr. Ehrlich needs to decide if he’s simply a talk show host or a serious candidate for Governor."